Fake passport used to pass off transplant as between relatives

The Yomiuri Shimbn

The price per kidney was $15,000, the equivalent today of about ¥2 million. The kidney transplant for the Japanese patient was conducted in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan. A Japanese nonprofit organization acted as an intermediary. A passport was forged for the Ukrainian donor to make it look like she was a relative of the patient. The patient whose condition after the transplant temporarily became life-threatening, regrets having undergone the surgery. It all adds up to another suspected case of organ trafficking.

It was from November to December last year when four Japanese people traveled to Kyrgyzstan. The one who actually underwent kidney transplant surgery was a 58-year-old woman who lives in the Kansai region.

When the woman’s kidney disease worsened and she began dialysis treatment around spring 2020, she started doing research on the internet in the hopes of receiving a transplant as soon as possible. That was when she found the Tokyo-based NPO’s website.

She contacted the organization and the NPO’s director suggested Uzbekistan, also in Central Asia, as her destination.

According to the woman, the director told her, “Since this is a living donor transplant, the kidney will be durable.”

The woman paid approximately ¥18.5 million to the NPO and went to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, in June 2021. NPO staff told her that a Turkish coordinator, who claims to be a doctor, was involved.

The woman was told that she could return to Japan in 40 days, but it took months to set a date for her surgery. Around October, the NPO finally told her that a donor had been found.

Ukrainian donor

The donor was a middle-aged, petite Ukrainian woman whom the Japanese patient met several times at the examination site. On those occasions, the Ukrainian not only greeted her in Japanese, such as by saying “Ohayo,” but also sang a Japanese song to herself.

The patient wondered why a Ukrainian could speak Japanese, so she asked the NPO staff and found out that the Ukrainian woman was being taught Japanese by the staff in order to impersonate the Japanese woman’s relative. Later, she learned that a Japanese passport was forged in the donor’s name.

She was hospitalized in Tashkent awaiting surgery, but at the end of November she was suddenly informed by the NPO that she was going to Kyrgyzstan and transferred to the capital Bishkek. She was taken to a private hospital where a flurry of medical equipment was brought in.

According to the Japanese Embassy in Kyrgyzstan, the law in Kyrgyzstan only allows living donor transplants between relatives. A person connected to the NPO testified that the passports were forged to make it look like as if the donor and the recipient were relatives.

Dead recipient

The primary surgeon was replaced by an Egyptian doctor, instead of the “Indian transplant specialist” who had been previously described to her. The woman felt uneasy, but told herself, “I have a donor, and this is my only chance to have a transplant.” On Dec.18, she underwent surgery.

She woke up about a week after the surgery in a hotel room in Bishkek. She felt an intense pain in her back, as if she had been stabbed with a knife.

When she asked the Turkish coordinator through social media why she was moved from the hospital to the hotel, he replied, “Because another patient had a problem.” An Israeli who had undergone kidney transplant surgery in the same hospital through a route different from the NPO’s had died.

The woman returned to Japan at the beginning of this year and was admitted directly to a hospital. The transplanted kidney was not functioning and was surgically removed. She was hospitalized for over six months and is now recuperating at home.

“I trusted the NPO and underwent the surgery, but this happened,” she said. “I can never forgive them.”